Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 28, 2019

This ain’t it chief

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

I’ll admit it, I’m way too invested in this whole Grand Jury thing than is actually healthy for a person.  So I’m reading as many public-ish social media threads about it that I can get my hands on.  However there is one thing that I’ve seen pop up that makes me super uncomfortable with that particular framing attempt and that is the discussion around the consultant who was brought on board to assist with the City Manager performance review.

I’ll back up and say that that part of the Grand Jury report was a bit of a red flag for me.  We knew the consultant had quit when this actually happened but I think we all thought it was a difference in personality types.  I mean, we all watched the City Council meetings right?  That was a public display but can you imagine what the People’s Mayor must have been like behind closed doors?  Shudder.

But it turns out that it was more than just a personality conflict, from the GJ report:

The consultant saw it as an effort by at least two councilmembers to hold the evaluation over the city manager until the fire chief position was filled. Because of this behavior, the consultant terminated his firm’s contract with the city prior to completion of any of the reviews.

This is someone whose contract was not terminated but chose to terminate his contract with the City.  While the GJ probably should not have written their next paragraph alluding to what this all means, but I mean, we all know what it means though.

Anyway there have been some attempts to discredit the consultant referenced above by dragging out an old 2015 article about his resignation from the very firm that was hired to help out with the City Manager performance review last year.  I found a slightly different article which was more illuminating as to what the issue was and why it is more nuanced than the headline alone, from the Marin IJ:

A former San Rafael city manager has settled a lawsuit claiming he violated an anti-corruption law stemming from his term as Santa Monica’s city manager.

Rod Gould denies wrongdoing, but said he does not have the resources to defend himself against a lawsuit that essentially involves a governance dispute in a city he no longer works for.

He also accused the city, particularly the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office, of advising him his actions were legally sound and then failing to back him up after he was challenged.

The lawsuit was brought by the Santa Monica Transparency Project, a citizens’ watchdog group dedicated to enforcing the anti-corruption law. The law, known as the Oaks Initiative, is an amendment to the city charter that restricts the terms under which former city officials can accept employment offers.

Gould said he received assurances from both the city attorney’s office and the International City/County Management Association, a professional organization, that accepting the position with Management Partners was neither a legal violation nor an ethical one.

He also said the Oaks Initiative was intended as a campaign finance reform that might not apply to city employees, and that it has proved unenforceable at any level. He said the city attorney’s office in Santa Monica has told the City Council that the amendment is probably unconstitutional.

Gould took a leave of absence from his part-time position at the consulting firm until the litigation was resolved. Under the settlement, he agreed to give up his job, abide by the Oaks restrictions through Jan. 31, 2017, and pay the plaintiffs $20,000 for legal costs.

I’ll point out that this has happened in Alameda too when former City Attorney Teresa Highsmith accepted a position at a firm that had recently completed a contract with the City of Alameda.  She is now a partner at that law firm.

And more:

On Friday, Gould sent a letter to the Santa Monica City Council chastising the city attorney’s office for its poor legal advice. He also urged the City Council to adopt a series of reforms to prevent such legal jams for city officials in the future, such as a clarification of who falls under the Oaks Initiative and Oaks-related training for city employees.

“That lawsuit has put me in the middle of a dispute between the City and the Charter proponents over enforcement of the Oaks Initiative Charter Amendment,” he wrote. “Yet the City has refused to participate in the lawsuit or otherwise seek a judicial determination that its interpretation of the Oaks Initiative is correct and that the measure does not apply to employees. That puts employees like me, who relied on the City’s prior position, in an untenable position.”

It appears as though the lawsuit for, according to a different piece, what amounted to part time work was largely a political act.  In fact a local blogger noted:

However, after Oaks was passed, two trial courts found that it was unconstitutional. While those rulings were voided on appeal for procedural reasons, Gould will probably raise constitutional objections, and he may have other arguments. California law includes strong public policies in favor of a free labor market. For instance, in most circumstances California bans covenants not to compete. Courts might apply those policies against the application of Oaks when it prevents someone who hasn’t otherwise broken the law from getting a job.

So again, a much more nuanced story than one of just out and out corruption on the part of the consultant.  I don’t think that questioning the ethics of a consultant is going to be very helpful in the grand scheme of things.

15 Comments »

  1. Excellent reporting/public service. Thank you

    Comment by musyoka2004 — June 28, 2019 @ 7:38 am

  2. Interesting, thank you.

    Next firestorm will be legal fees. There are two very unfortunate precedents for this of which I’m aware, if anyone knows of others please post me:

    1) Lena Tam. A grand jury said no wrongdoing, which was the fig leaf that council used to pay her, but that was a travesty. She actively & willfully betrayed the city in two separate negotiations (SunCal and IAFF). However, this precedent, foul smelling as it is, doesn’t really apply here because Vella & Oddie were definitively declared to be in the wrong by GJ.

    2) Jeff Delbono. When he asked for reimbursement he said it was to make the union whole. Since he was acting for the union, it was proper for the union to pay (though most proper that he paid it himself). It is rumored that Vella’s legal bill was covered by the Teamsters but that is only a rumor. If anyone can confirm or deny that, please do so.

    Assuming that the unions did cover them, and again if anyone has better info please post me, there is NO reason whatsoever for taxpayers to cover these bills. And even if the unions didn’t, there is still no valid reason for the taxpayers to cover the legal fees for people who violated the charter, full stop.

    Of course if a council member does run up legal bills as a result of good faith performance of their duties, the city should pay, but it is difficult to imagine a situation in which legal, proper, good faith actions would force a councilmember to hire an attorney in the first place. Normal course of business would be for the city attorney to handle as part of her job.

    Comment by dave — June 28, 2019 @ 7:45 am

  3. Expecting appreciation of nuance from some of our local bots might be expecting a bit much

    Comment by MP — June 28, 2019 @ 10:22 am

  4. The most nefarious and underhanded thing was not the legal fees, it was delaying and obfuscating of the Grand Jury report as well as hiding Bonta’s tampering. This coverup allowed the most recent election results to occur, with Vella elected and then Oddie appointed. Of course, the City of Alameda and its taxpaying citizens lost.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — June 28, 2019 @ 10:33 am

  5. Please stop going back to Lena. She was the victim of manufactured evidence and an Interim City Manager who was a crook and setting up the City for a big payout, as she had done at least three jobs before she tried it here (Cities of Carson, Palm Desert, and Los Angeles). Thankfully she got zero out of Alameda. Lena was smart enough to stand up to her; hire a good attorney and fight. The City was smart enough to not give in to her “I’m being fired in retaliation for being a whistle blower.” assertion, which she had successfully used three times before to fleece these other cities out of six figure no disclosure settlements. I have spoken personally to the former city manager of Carson and got the whole background story. If you want his name and contact info., let me know.

    Comment by Kate Quick — June 28, 2019 @ 1:23 pm

    • I recall Lena admitting to having emailed the city’s position in those negotiations to the counterparty. If my memory is incorrect, please tell me.

      If that memory is correct, it was a betrayal of the city, separate and apart from any of Gallant shenanigans. Her legal fees were the result of her own actions.

      Again, please correct me if that is wrong, memories are not perfect after a decade.

      Comment by dave — June 28, 2019 @ 2:21 pm

      • And in any case, I noted that the Tam precedent doesn’t apply to Tapegate.

        Comment by dave — June 28, 2019 @ 2:33 pm

  6. Hi Lauren: I have great respect for your contributions in a space where it seems like the only serious person operating is Steven Tavares.
    I agree however with your self-criticism that you’re getting obsessed.
    The bottom line is two councilpersons did what they thought was right and all the iterations of investigations all agreed on was to modify the city charter. I agree it was written when Woodrow Wilson was president.
    BTW who are the Alameda members of GJ?

    Comment by Mike Henneberry — June 28, 2019 @ 6:35 pm

    • If you go to the County Civil Grand Jury Page it has their names.

      Comment by frank — June 29, 2019 @ 7:30 am

    • You make it sound like you might go knock on their doors. Not helping your cause.

      Comment by michonnekatana — June 30, 2019 @ 12:39 am

      • I’ve been knocking on doors and walking precincts since I was 18. Nothing new there person with the made up name.

        Comment by Mike Henneberry — June 30, 2019 @ 1:51 am

        • Whatever dude who calls himself Mike. See ya at the pancake breakfast Bro.

          Comment by michonnekatana — July 6, 2019 @ 10:40 pm

  7. The bottom line is two councilpersons did what they thought was right

    ——————–

    Interesting choice of words, “did what they thought was right.”

    They didn’t think that acting for the citizenry, who elected them and to whom they swore an oath, was “right.” That would have meant staying out of the process or if they entered it, to provide info on every candidate for the job to help make the best decision possible.

    They decided that what was “right” was to interfere on behalf of a union that bankrolled them.

    I appreciate the clarity of your post, Mr Henneberry. It confirms what is widely suspected.

    Comment by dave — June 29, 2019 @ 3:07 pm

    • Doing what they thought was right & representing the citizenry are not mutually exclusive “Dave.”

      Comment by Mike Henneberry — June 30, 2019 @ 1:55 am

      • hey Mike, people always whine a lot when they loose. Dave has a really hard time with not winning every debate. on the good side he hates trump.

        Comment by trumpisnotmypresident — June 30, 2019 @ 3:04 pm


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